Tag Archives: Random Thoughts

I’m Not Giving Up

When I say I am not giving up, I do not mean I am not giving up on wrestling. I will never give up on wrestling so that is not even a question. It is like a sports team that you enjoy that may struggle at times. I am always going to watch I do not even think wrestling (WWE included) is that bad. To me it’s not bad at all. When you combine that with the other promotions that I watch, I think the quality of wrestling as whole is decent when it comes to my enjoyment of the shows. My biggest problem with wrestling (especially WWE and GFW) is that it underachieves more than it is actively bad.

That was a long introduction/prologue. Anyway, when I say that I am not giving up…I mean I am not submitting to the idea that nothing WWE (or any wrestling company, but especially WWE) does matters because their numbers are going to be within a certain range no matter what they do. I think that wrestling can do bigger numbers if there was better booking and more star power. An example is how much Kenny Omega has helped ROH’s numbers. It’s a smaller scale, but it proves that the right star can move numbers.

Another reason that I refuse to believe that there is nothing that WWE can do to increase its numbers is because a great deal of the criticism that the company gets for its booking, writing and presentation is legitimate criticism. If they fixed some of those issues, their numbers would be even better. It’s not like “the product” is getting a 90 percent approval ratings. Indeed, the fact that ratings are stabilized, but still historically low, attendance is down for now and the Network is a slight disappointment (a big disappointment when one looks at initial projections) does correlate with complaints about the television show and the general WWE presentation. If WWE can look at those complaints (I will not rehash them) and make changes…then the numbers should in theory go up.

In essence, I am agreeing with what the Vince McMahon narrative was for years…you need the right attraction and you will draw.

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How to Fix 50/50 booking…if they insist

50/50 booking is going to be a constant theme of this blog because it may be the biggest problem that WWE has in terms of getting people over. Also, knowing their patterns makes things more predictable than they should be. I would say this, I think it works better in other promotions than in WWE, because the only issue with 50/50 booking in promotions like NJPW and ROH is that it makes things predictable, but in WWE it not only creates predictability, it makes it difficult for people to get over.

With the above in mind, if 50/50 booking is going to be a reality, then there are two things that WWE could do to make it easier to digest for those in the audience who do see it as a problem.

The first is acknowledge the parity. Acknowledging the parity has to be more than “anything can happen in WWE.” It has to be treated like a sport where it is outright said that the wrestlers’ records are relatively even for the most part. I see why they would not approach things in the manner I just suggested, but at this point it is almost insulting the intelligence of the audience not to discuss the reality that 90 percent of the company is around the .500 mark (at least it seems that way). I do not always agree with Wade Keller, but one thing he often preaches that I do agree with is that companies should “own their booking”. If they want to book 50/50, then they should address it just like any other sports announcer would address parity in a league where there is obviously parity.

The second one is a bit more difficult to explain in terms of reasoning. I’ll start by saying that one thing I feel wrestling promotions should avoid (for the most part), is giving people a reason to remember that this is a “show.” When people talk about that, they usually talk about wrestlers “laying their stuff in” or not writing or producing a “hokey” segment. I agree with those sentiments. I would expand it and say that when a promotion does a match one week and then does the same match the next week…there needs to be a storyline reason for it. If Wrestler A beats Wrestler B on November 1, if there is a rematch on November 8…give us a reason. Even if that reason is on the company’s website or YouTube page. When you don’t give a reason, it makes some members of the audience think…”oh, they just want to give Wrestler B his or her win back.”

If you don’t want to give a storyline reason, go back to what I wrote in the above paragraph, just have the announcers say that the management of the show in question wanted to see if last week was a fluke or that the promotion believes that there is parity, so one match does not prove that one is better than the other and the next match is to make sure. Of course that does not explain why there would not be a third match, but this post is to make 50/50 booking work. I think it’s a poor way to book, but there are ways to make it manageable.

NJPW and Predictable Booking

I think one of the flaws with NJPW is that their booking is too predictable. Being predictable is not always bad, in fact it is often a positive because people watching the show should see the clues towards angles. Moreover, as I said in another post, there are times when fans know what the result is going to be and it actually makes them more interesting in watching/paying for the Pay per View. At the same time, it can also be a positive to have more unpredictability.

I have not seen every New Japan show this year, but I have seen all of the major shows and I have followed the product closely. I do not think there has been a time this where where someone has beaten a champion in a non-title match (tag match or tournament match) and then beat that person in the subsequent title match. I think that needs to change because the patterns become too obvious. As an aside (that may or may not be an aside), I do not really think most champions should lose at all in any company…maybe once or twice a year for each championship (maybe). There are some exceptions, but for the most part champions should be protected.

An example of the point is Juice Robinson, he has pinned three champions this year and lost the subsequent title match every time. My point is not about Juice Robinson, I trust New Japan to make a story about the fact that he has fallen short in the title matches and it will be a big deal when he does win a title. My point is that as a general rule, if NJPW insists on beating a champion before a title match, then the challenger should beat the champion in the subsequent title match to make things less predictable.

Merchandise and the Calculated Risk

Is merchandise the best way to tell who is a draw in wrestling now? One thing that I will say is that I do believe it gets underrated by people who think Wrestler X should turn heel just because they are stale in those people’s opinions or  because “Wrestler X would make a great heel.”

The television rights fees are fixed and while WWE wants to stay the same or get higher ratings because they are going into negotiations for a new television deal, turning someone heel who is making money through merchandise is risky because the money is already there (for the television deal). The company has to replace that money somehow. I do not believe in turning someone because they will probably get booed….that means nothing in comparison to actually drawing money.

Yes, turning a person heel can potentially draw higher ratings which can be then leveraged for a comparable or maybe even a better television deal in the next negotiations. Yes, turning a person heel can help with network subscriptions. Yes, turning a person heel can help boost attendance. Yes, turning a person heel can lead to a program with a babyface who may do even better merchandise numbers. The key word is “can.” When someone is doing well in merchandise sales (someone like Enzo Amore or  New Day), then it is a calculated risk to turn them. The reason why Amore and the New Day stand out for the merchandise sales is because they are better than average. I don’t know if they are better than average for anyone on the card or for their spot on the card, but people would not be talking about anyone’s merchandise sales unless they were strong.  If they are strong, then it is making the company money and I would have a hard time messing with that.  If a company does make a change, they better be right.

A few things here. First of all, ideally the goal would be to catch something before it gets stale. At the same time, stale is a subjective and intangible measurement. When there is television every week, people are more likely to say something is stale…that does not mean the masses feel the same way. Even if many people feel an act is stale, that still may not be a good enough reason to take an entity that is making X amount of money on merchandise sales and making that X/2 or X/3 or X/10 by turning that entity heel.

Secondly, yes heels sell merchandise, but it seems to me that most of the heels that sell strong merchandise do so because they started as heels…not people who turn heel…at least in WWE.  I have no problem with “cool heels”, they could probably make more money in today’s climate than traditional heels. At the same time WWE markets to children and they script the wrestlers to say things that will make people think twice about buying their merchandise. Actually I want to stop there because that is a different discussion entirely.

Thirdly, I am not saying never turn anyone heel and I am not saying that anyone who has strong merchandise sales should not turn heel. I am saying if it is better than average for their spot on the card…there really should be a plan to make that money back before turning the person heel. The plan could be having a really strong storyline that would get people willing to go to the arenas or buy the Network. The plan could be to have someone else on the roster (whether they are going directly against the new heel or not) doing strong merchandise sales because they are going to get a bigger push. The specifics of the plan are less important than the idea of the plan drawing money to replace the money you are losing.

I am against turning someone because of potential crowd reaction (the heel may get booed) because crowd reaction is secondary to making money and going back to the beginning of this post…we may have reached the point where the only way that wrestlers in WWE can make a difference is buy selling a t-shirt.

One last thing…I have no problem wearing wrestling shirts in public. At the same time, it is a hangup for people who are big wrestling fans so it is better if wrestling shirts do not look like wrestling shirts…that is hardly profound, but I thought I would bring it up.

Babyfaces do not have to be good guys

When I say what is in the title, I do not mean universally. In fact, my point is not that babyfaces should not be good guys or heroes. It’s fine if they are. I just do not think they have to be good guys. I would say the idea should be to present babyfaces as good guys most of the time.

For instance, if I was starting a promotion from scratch, I do not think I would have anti-heroes. At the same time, if a heel got cheered to the point where I would have to turn him, I would keep the aspects of the heel that got cheered…even if those qualities are not heroic. As I have said before, I am much more reactive to crowd responses than proactive. When I say that, I mean that I do not look at something that is over and find reasons it should not be. Because of that I am much more willing to accept the fact that audiences just connect with some performers/acts no matter what they do. Besides, I do think there is a negative to being overly good, especially if it leads to preachy promos.

Another Moose Take

Fundamental Belief (and I was thinking about this walking home Saturday night): A good product may not be commercially successful, but a commercially successful product cannot be bad.

Anyone who has read my blog knows that I am a big believer in analyzing wrestling through crowd engagement, especially crowd engagement that is tangible (ratings, attendance, merchandise, PPV Buys, Network subscriptions etc). With that in mind, if a product can reach some or all of those goals, then it is good. Any other viewpoint is pretentious and reeks of superiority when wrestling is entertainment which means it is subjective. There has been a great deal of criticism of the Attitude Era, the Attitude Era was good because it got people to engage with the product which is the entire point. It is not like WWE cheated or tricked people to watch-people watched because they wanted to…because there were aspects of the product that appealed to them and that is the entire point of wrestling (or at least it is for most organizations).

As far as the other side goes, there are times where a product can be good, but the platform is not there for tangible success. Actually as mainstream as WWE is in comparison to other wrestling organizations, their platform may not be there for success if they put on a good product because the company has ran off so many fans that when it actually gets good again, it may take time for people to start watching (if they do start watching).